Smart, creative people use power naps to keep their energy, mood, and productivity high all day long. Our tips will help you get the most from napping.
Would you like to get more done in less time and feel more energetic and alert all day long?
Do you rely on coffee to push through the day? Do you sleep poorly at night?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are an excellent candidate for taking power naps.
Power naps can boost your energy, mood, productivity and creativity significantly better than the typical pick-me-up, caffeine.
Learn the many amazing benefits of power napping and how to nap properly so you wake up feeling mentally recharged and not groggy.
What Is a Power Nap?
A power nap is defined as a short period of rest or sleep that does not include the stages of deep sleep. (1)
Its purpose is to get maximum revitalization in the minimum amount of time.
While everyone is different, the optimal duration of a power nap is around 15-20 minutes.
The term was coined by psychologist Dr. James B. Maas, author of Power Sleep : The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance.
According to Dr. Maas, a ten to twenty-minute power nap can counter the natural midday circadian dip in alertness that most people experience around eight hours after waking up in the morning. (2)
The power nap concept was conceived as an easy, healthy way to boost mood, alertness, energy, and productivity — without the use of stimulants like caffeine.
Benefits of Taking a Power Nap
Some of the most productive and brilliant people in history are said to have taken naps including Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Johannes Brahms, Albert Einstein, and Leonardo da Vinci. (3)
There’s no guarantee power napping will make you smarter, but it should leave you mentally clear and refreshed, so you can keep your mood, energy, focus, and productivity levels high all day long.
- increased energy and stamina
- reduced stress due to decreased cortisol levels
- improved mood due to an increase in serotonin levels
- reduced risk of depression
- improved memory and learning
- increased alertness and productivity
- improved accuracy
- increased creativity
- increased patience
- enhanced decision-making skills
- enhanced sex life
- reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure
- reduced risk of diabetes and obesity
- reduced dependence on alcohol and drugs including caffeine
- improved motor skills and coordination
- reduced risk of getting in an accident
- reduced health damage incurred from chronic insomnia
One of the most amazing things about taking a nap is that it doesn’t just make you more productive for a short time, it actually makes you more productive for the rest of the day. (9)
This makes the minutes spent napping one of the best returns on investment of your time.
You might think you’re too busy to nap but presidents John F. Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Lyndon B. Johnson took naps while in office. (10)
If they found time to power nap, maybe you should too!
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Power Naps Raise Performance All Day
Dr. Sara Mednick is a leading authority on the study of napping and author of Take a Nap! Change Your Life.
One of the biggest surprises she encountered while studying the benefits of a midday power nap was how well it improved performance for the rest of the day.
She first established baseline levels of performance by testing well-rested people on their creative abilities and performance on simple tasks (like memory or typing) four times throughout the day.
Mednick found that performance usually peaked during the morning and gradually deteriorated as the day wore on.
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After trying various ways to keep performance at the peak level experienced during the morning, she found napping to be the only way that worked reliably.
A power nap didn’t just raise baseline performance and creativity levels temporarily, it unexpectedly kept them high all afternoon and into the evening.
She plotted this trend in the graph below.
How Power Naps Compare to Caffeine
If you are among the millions of people who regularly consume caffeine, you’ll find the next phase of Dr. Mednick’s research really interesting.
After lunch, test subjects either took a nap or ingested a dose of caffeine equivalent to a cup of coffee.
A third group was given a placebo instead of caffeine.
When tested on memory and motor tasks, the power nappers experienced a boost in post-nap performance that stayed high the rest of the day.
The placebo group’s performance declined during the day, as expected.
But the caffeine group’s performance was a big surprise.
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This group performed significantly worse than both the nap and placebo groups!
If you rely on caffeine in coffee, soda, or energy drinks to push through your afternoon, you may find that it keeps you alert but it most likely does not boost your performance.
In fact, if Mednick’s results run true, your caffeine intake makes your performance worse.
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How to Power Nap Correctly
Sleep comes in five stages that recur cyclically throughout the night. (11)
An ideal power nap should consist mainly of stage 1 with some stage 2 sleep.
Longer naps allow you to enter deeper sleep, which can leave you feeling groggy and keep you up at night. (12)
Sleep researcher Dr. Sara Mednick offers these simple guidelines to get the most out of your power nap:
- Keep your nap short, ideally 20-30 minutes. Sleep longer and you’ll wake up feeling groggy.
- The best time for napping is between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m or roughly seven to eight hours after you wake up.
- Keep in mind that napping later or longer could make it harder to fall asleep at night.
- If you don’t actually fall asleep when you nap, that’s OK. Getting rest is as almost as good as falling asleep when you nap.
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Power Nap Apps
One of the hardest parts to get right in order to get the maximum benefits from a power nap is timing.
You don’t want to rest too long — that’s counterproductive.
If you’re taking a nap at work, you may be especially concerned about oversleeping.
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Here’s one solution. There are apps that can help you time your perfect power nap.
Pzizz is a very popular free sleep app for both iPhone and Android.
It has many sleep-related features, the power nap module is only one of them.
It uses binaural beats sound frequencies to change your brain wave patterns to quickly guide you in and out of the proper sleep stages so that you awaken refreshed.
Pzizz boasts a patented algorithm that generates a slightly new soundtrack every time you listen to it, so theoretically you never get tired of it and it never loses its effectiveness.
If you’ve got an iPhone, another app to consider is the Sleep Cycle Power Nap.
It uses your phone’s built-in accelerometer to analyze your movements so that it wakes you before you fall into a deep sleep.
Power Napping at Work
Whether you can easily take a power nap at work depends on your employer’s policies and attitudes towards napping.
A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance 34% and alertness 100%. (13)
Today, in part because of that study, pilots on international flights take turns enjoying NASA naps to refresh and stay alert.
Some corporations are following NASA’s lead and not only allow but encourage power naps.
Some companies like Apple or Prentice Hall Publishing have quiet rooms or meditation rooms where employees can meditate, pray, or nap. (20)
Other employers have outdoor garden space where employees can think quietly, meditate, or nap.
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These forward-thinking companies realize that providing napping facilities is a win-win move that makes for a happier, healthier, more productive workforce.
Not all workplaces encourage napping and, in some places, sleeping on the job can even get you fired.
This is an unfortunate, shortsighted policy because sleep deprivation is a national epidemic estimated to cause $150 billion in lost productivity annually. (21)
If your place of employment doesn’t allow napping, you may have to get creative.
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People have been known to take quick power naps in their car, the office lunchroom or bathroom, or on a local park bench.
If you work in a large city, you may be able to find a nearby salon that rents out nap space.
The idea of nap salons originated in sleep-deprived Japan. (22)
For example, Yelo Spa in New York City offers napping among its usual day spa services. (23)
Clients can pay for 20-minute blocks of time to nap.
Power Naps: The Bottom Line
There’s a natural tendency for mental performance to decline during the day and continue to decline through the evening.
The evidence shows that taking a power nap can keep your mood, creativity, and productivity high all day long. And it works even better than caffeine.
Napping for twenty minutes and waking before you’ve entered the deep stages of sleep will assure that you wake up refreshed.
Napping provides a long list of physical and mental healthy benefits.
Some of the smartest and most creative people on the planet have found napping to be a wise investment of their time.